University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.46, Doc. 23 rev. 1 (1978).




A. The invitation extended by the Government of El Salvador

1. In a note dated September 14, 1977, the Government of El Salvador invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to visit the territory of El Salvador and to observe and investigate the situation regarding human rights in that country. That letter reads as follows:

Mr. Chairman:

I am pleased to carry out specific instructions from the President of the Republic of El Salvador, General Carlos Humberto Romero, and from the Foreign Minister of that country, Licenciado Alvaro Ernesto Martínez, to the effect that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, over which you preside, be invited to visit our country in order to make its valuable contribution to the promotion of human rights.

As you will remember, Mr. Chairman, this Delegation has reconfirmed, on numerous occasions during different sessions of the General Assembly of the Organization, El Salvador’s adherence to the philosophical and juridical principles concerning the protection of the individual, which are upheld not only in such international instruments as the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the “American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man” but also in most domestic laws, which in El Salvador’s case is the Constitution itself.

You may rest assured, Mr. Chairman, that the members of the Commission who journey to El Salvador shall have all such facilities to conduct the investigation as they may deem appropriate and that their recommendations shall be studied carefully and at length and will be viewed with good will, for the sake of promoting maximum respect for the individual in our country.

This Mission is at you disposal to arrange all the details in connection with the Commission’s visit.

I shall await the Commission’s decision.


Francisco Bertrand Galindo

Ambassador, Representative of El Salvador

To the Organization of American States

2. After considering this invitation, at its 42nd Session the Commission resolved to accept it and, on November 7, 1977, sent the following note to the Representative of El Salvador to the OAS:


Through Communication No. UP-72 A-800, September 14, 1977, Your Excellency informed me that you have received instructions from the President of the Republic of El Salvador, General Carlos Humberto Romero, and from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Licenciado Alvaro Ernesto Martínez, that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be invited to visit El Salvador, in order to make its contribution to the promotion of human rights.

Having pointed out that the people and Government of El Salvador have always adhered to this cause, Your Excellency adds that the members of the Commission who travel to your country shall have all such facilities to conduct the investigation as they may deem appropriate and that its recommendations will be studied carefully and viewed with all good will, all for the sake of promoting maximum respect for the individual in El Salvador.

In reply, I am pleased to inform you that the Commission, learning during the course of the present session of the terms of this invitation, has expressed unanimously its desire to accept that invitation without delay in order to conduct an on-site observation in the territory of El Salvador. The Commission also empowered me to arrange with you the details as to the date and length of this visit, the schedule of activities that the Commission would conduct during the visit and the facilities and cooperation that the authorities should accord to the Commission in order that it may carry out that mission properly, in accordance with the Commission’s regulations regarding on-site observations.

I ask that you kindly forward to the President of the Republic and to the Minister of Foreign Affairs the appreciation of the Commission for the valuable cooperation and the show of confidence that they were kind enough to offer to us.


Andrés Aguilar


3. The resolution of the Commission regarding on-site observations, which was sent to the Government of El Salvador, reads as follows:



That Article 11 of its Statute and Article 50 of its Regulations empowered the Commission to move to the territory of any American State with the consent or by the invitation of the respective government for the purpose of carrying out an on-site observation;


1. The on-site observations that the Commission agrees upon shall be carried out in accord with the following norms:

a) The Commission shall determine the composition of the Special Commission charged with the on-site observations;

b) The Special Commission or any of its members shall be able to interview, freely and in private, persons, groups, entities, or institutions, the Government being obligated to grant the pertinent guarantees to all those who may give the Commission information, testimony or evidence of any kind;

c) The members shall assure the availability of local means of transportation;

d) The Government shall assure the availability of local means of transportation;

e) The members of the Special Commission shall have access to the jails and all other detention and interrogation centers and shall be able to interview in private those persons sentenced or detained;

f) The Government shall provide the Special Commission with any document or information related to the observance of human rights that it may consider necessary for the preparation of its report;

g) The Special Commission shall be able to utilize any appropriate method for collecting, recording or reproducing the information that it considers pertinent;

h) The Government shall adopt adequate measures of security for the protection of the Special Commission;

i) The Government shall assure the availability of adequate lodging for the members of the Commission.

2. The guarantees and facilities indicated in the proceeding paragraph shall be extended to the personnel of the Secretariat that may accompany the Commission.

3. The Expense incurred by the Special Commission, each of its members and the personnel of the Secretariat shall be borne by the Organization of American States, subject to the pertinent dispositions of the regulations.

B. Organizational of the Special Committee

4. The Commission appointed Professor Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches, Vice Chairman, and Drs. Gabino Fraga and José Joaquín Gori, members of the Commission, to serve on the Special Committee to conduct an on-site observation in the territory of El Salvador.

5. In compliance with the mandate that was given him, the Chairman, Dr. Andrés Aguilar, reached an agreement with the government of El Salvador to the effect that the visit to El Salvador would take place between January 9 and 18, 1978.

6. Subsequently, Drs. Fraga and Gori both excused themselves from the Special committee, the former for reasons of health and the latter because of his appointment as Ambassador of Colombia to the Organization of American States. In light of this situation, the Chairman, in consultation with his colleagues, asked Professor Tom J. Farer and Dr. Fernando Volio to replace Drs. Fraga and Gori.

7. In keeping with its policy of establishing its own office, the Special committee installed its Secretariat in the Hotel Camino Real in San Salvador. The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, headed the Secretariat, assisted by Roberto Alvarez and Juan Roberto Eskenasy, staff lawyers, and by members of the secretarial staff, Hilda Wicker and Vickie Pitts.

C. Activities of the Special Committee

8. The Special Committee began its work in El Salvador on January 9, 1978.

9. On January 12, the Special Committee visited the President of the Republic of El Salvador, General Carlos Humberto Romero, who was accompanied by the Vice President, Dr. Julio Ernesto Astacio.

The President, speaking on behalf of his Government and the people of El Salvador, welcomed the members of the Special Committee and reminded its valuable contribution to the promotion of human rights. President Romero added that the Government would provide to the Commission all the facilities necessary to enable it to carry out its mission and any investigation that it might consider pertinent. He also expressed his appreciation to the Organization of American States, as it was through its intervention that the Commission was able to make the visit to El Salvador. He added that the recommendations of the Commission would be studied carefully and at length for the welfare of the country and to promote respect for the individual guarantees upheld in instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

10. The Special Committee pointed out to President Romero the significance of the invitation extended to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct an on-site observation en El Salvador. It also reminded the Chief of State that next April 30 is the thirtieth anniversary of the American declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and said that one means to commemorate so important an event would be to put the American Convention on Human Rights into effect. For this reason, Dr. Abranches called upon the Government of El Salvador to consider the possibility of ratifying the Pact of San José, Costa Rica.

11. Among other matters, the Committee expressed special concern regarding the situation of Salvadorian exiles. The Committee inquired, for example, about the case of Napoleón Duarte, an opposition candidate in the 1972 presidential elections, as this case is particularly significant because of its impact on a number of political and civil rights.

President Romero was of the opinion that Duarte did not wish to return to his country, as he considered it to be inopportune. The Committee, however, asked whether Duarte could return to El Salvador if he wished to do so, to which the President replied: “No. “ [1]/

12. The topic of “ORDEN” emerged during the course of the conversation. The President informed the Committee that this group helps to combat terrorism. He added that he himself, while acting as Minister of Defense during the previous Government, encouraged the organization of that body and since that time ORDEN has government support and acts in coordination with governmental activities aimed at combating terrorism.

13. At the close of the interview, the Chairman of the Special Committee issued the first press release on the visit to El Salvador. [2]/

14. The Special Committee also visited the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Legislative Assembly, Dr. Rubén Alfonso Rodríguez and Dr. Benjamin W. Navarrete, respectively, who were accompanied by a number of legislators. The Chairman of the Committee, after explaining the Committee’s mission, said that it wished to learn about this operation of the legislative branch of government and the exercise of its constitutional powers. The Chairman added that it also wished to learn the background of the “Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order,” its applications in practice and the significance of its adoption, in order to dispel certain concerns expressed to the Commission to the effect that enforcement of certain provisions of this law would affect the normal enjoyment of human rights in the Republic or could interfere with the work of the Special Committee.

15. In reply, the Chairman of the Legislative Assembly explained that because of the severity of terrorist acts committed by both international and national subversive groups in recent months, the Government had to adopt the measures necessary to have available an expeditious legal instrument with which to defend public order, without jeopardizing the individual rights and freedoms of the members of the community. His views were hared by other members taking part in the conversation with the Special Committee and who reported that no representatives of the opposition parties were present because the opposition decided not to take part in the most recent elections.

16. That same day the Committee visited the members of the Supreme Court of Justice, including the Chief Justice, Dr. Rogelio Alfredo Chávez, the Heads of the three chambers: Amparo, Dr. Diego Cordero Rodríguez; Civil, Dr. Manuel Humberto Riviera, and Criminal, Dr. Julio Fausto Fernández.

17. After explaining the purpose of its mission, the Special Committee stated that it was important that the judiciary function properly in order to protect human rights effectively; it informed the magistrates of the Court to protect human rights effectively; it informed the magistrates of the Court that the Commission had received various communications from El Salvador in which the claimants alleged difficulties in presenting their petitions as well as delays in Court rulings. The Special committee pointed out that, in accordance with the Regulations of the Commission, before accepting a case the Commission checks whether the internal legal procedures and remedies have been duly applied and exhausted.

18. The Chief Justice answered these allegations and added that the purpose of the changes made in the Code of Criminal Procedure last November was to make proceedings in this regard more expeditious. He also reported that the “Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order” was adopted because of the campaign that had been launched abroad in connection with alleged violations of human rights in El Salvador. He went on to point out that the preamble of this law established the need for it in light of the severity of the cases of terrorism and the events instigated by international subversion. He also reported that in compliance with Article 61 of the Constitution of El Salvador, the Supreme Court had been duly consulted on the draft law and had handed down a favorable opinion.

The Committee cited a series of provisions in the Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order which are very broad, because they affect the rights of freedom of expression and association and proscribe a number of noncriminal acts if it can be proved that they were performed for reasons prejudicial to public order in El Salvador. In light of the opportunities for abuse in the application of the law and of its inherent tendency to restrict the exercise of certain political and civil rights, the Committee asked the Chief Justice why the Court felt the law was in keeping with the Constitution of El Salvador.

The justices emphasized that they were convinced of the constitutionality of the law and insisted that any improper application could be rectified through the judicial process.

19. Furthermore, the Chief Justice stated that the allegation that the remedies of habeas corpus and amparo were ineffectual was not true.

20. Finally, the Chief Justice added that the Court has always been consulted on those cases where a law does not emanate form the Court itself and to interpret, amend or abolish any provision of the codes of the Republic. This does not mean that the Court cannot hear a claim of unconstitutionality presented in a specific case.

21. Beginning on January 12, the Special Committee also held separate interviews with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Alvaro E. Martínez; the Minister of the Interior, General Armando L. Rojas; the Minister of Defense, General Federico C. Yanes; the Minister of Justice, Dr. Rafael Flores y Flores, and with the Deputy Secretary for Education, Lic. María A. Díaz. The Special Committee explained its mission and concern to all these officials and received from them their promise to cooperate with the Commission in every way possible.

22. On January 13 the Special Committee was received by the Archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Oscar A. Romero, and a number of his colleagues. Because of the information it had already obtained both before its arrival and during its visit to El Salvador, the Committee wanted to hear reasons, events and the views of the Archbishop and his colleagues with regard to the conflict between the Catholic Church and the Government.

Monsignor Romero and the priest explained their position clearly and in detail, and also provided evidence. Monsignor Romero and his colleagues said that different groups of priests are dedicated to helping the peasants (campesinos) in activities such as those that would enable then to organize themselves to claim their rights and improve their lot; that those activities encounter resistance among groups of landowners or businessmen opposed to the advancement of campesinos and who accuse the priests and the Church of what they regard as political activities. This has provoked a violent reaction against the campesinos, their leaders, the priests themselves and, as consequence, the Church, the Government, for its part, also resents the position of the church and interprets it as political and opposed to the regime. This has led to serious tension and harassment which include accusations of collaboration with the terrorists made by groups supporting the Government, accusations which the Church has categorically rejected because it is opposed to terrorism and subversion.

The Special Committee spoke with the Rabbi of San Salvador who said that the small Jewish community in El Salvador has never had difficulties of any kind with the Salvadoran authorities, and added that in his opinion he knew of no instances of persecution of other creeds.

The Special Committee also spoke with a group of protestant clergymen, each of whom explained the religious and assistance activities conducted by their churches in various parts of El Salvador. They indicated that their conduct was strictly apolitical with respect to the constitutional standards of the Republic, In answer to questions from the Special Committee, the clergymen stated that neither the Government nor any other authority had ever persecuted them or limited their religious freedom in any way; that this situation did not change during the periods of state of siege; that there area in El Salvador enormous socioeconomic imbalances, but that the present Government in making efforts to improve the situation and that El Salvador was the first country to experience a Marxist-inspired uprising due in large part to the miserable living conditions of the campesinos of El Salvador.

23. The Committee then visited the General Headquarters of the National Guard in San Salvador. Gen. Alvarenga, Director General of the National Guard, and his aides, explained the organization and operation of the Guard and then accompanied members of the Special Committee on a tour of the Offices of the Headquarters, which had been named by some as a place of detention. Nothing irregular could be found on this first visit; all places that might be used for purposes of detention were found to be empty and clean. During this visit the Special Committee submitted a list of a number of individuals alleged to have been detained and confined in secret cells of the National Guard and requested certain additional information on arrests made by that security corps. Later, the Special Committee visited the National Guard again and discovered a block of secret cells that matched the description given by various individuals to the Commission. These two visits to the National Guard are discussed in more detail in other parts of this report. [3]/

24. The Special Committee held a meeting with the council of the Universidad Nacional. The acting Director spoke on behalf of the nine deans and other professors present, who represented the units that made up the University; he summarized whose events in El Salvador that most directly affected the University and which led to its closing in 1972, the violence against the students in 1975 and the murder of Rector Carlos Alfredo Castillo in 1077. In the opinion of these professors, leftist and terrorist organizations are responsible for these events. In response to questions from the Special Committee, the professors reported that one university student died as a result of the violence; that seven people died during the confrontations that occurred between the public forces and students and other individuals during the street demonstration of 1975 and 1976; that the school newspaper of the University of El Salvador, which is run by its students, merely reported the death of one student, and that the Government does not intervene in or interfere with the University.

The Special Committee also visited the Universidad Matías Delgado, where it was received by its Rector, Vice Rectors and almost all the members of its Council. When asked by the Special Committee whether there was freedom of education en El Salvador, they said that at the Universidad Matías Delgado there was complete academic freedom, although that was not the case at the Universidad del Estado, where only Marxist teachings were used in certain subjects in the social sciences. Furthermore, they also said that the university was in the process of organization and that it had not yet opened its classroom but that would do so during the course of this year.

25. On Saturday, January 14, the Special Committee visited the places of detention of the National Police in San Salvador. After inspecting the premises, the members of the Committee met in private with a number of persons confined therein. These detainees, selected at random, were confined on suspicion of minor infractions of the Criminal Code either a few hours or a few days before. All said that they had been treated properly by the authorities from the time they had been detained. Later, the Committee discovered that a number of these individuals were released by the authorities immediately after the Committee’s visit. Further, inside the national Police Building, in rooms located close to the cells, the Special Committee had an opportunity to witness the performance of a Justice of the Peace, whose manner of appointment was not clear, but who was in fact under the authority of the Commandant of that security corps. The judge told the Special Committee that he acted independently in deciding the fate of the individuals brought before him by the police and who had been accused of petty crimes or misdemeanors provided for in the Criminal Code; he said that he applied the punishment appropriate to the charge or ordered their release; that individuals in custody, with whom the Special Committee spoke, had the right to be assisted by an attorney, but he did not indicate how detainees could secure an attorney and bring him before the judge hearing the case, nor did he cite any specific case in which a lawyer had intervened. Chapters III and IV contain observations on how in practice, the conduct of the justices of the Peace can affect the effective enjoyment of human rights.

26. Before and during its on-site observation, the Special Committee received information that indicated that the community of Aguilares was a center of serious conflict between campesinos and priests on the one hand, and landowners, paramilitary groups and the Government on the other. Those conflicts were cited as the cause of serious violation of human rights, such as murder, disappearances, persecution of members of the Catholic Church and other abuses.

To investigate those denunciations, the Special Committee w4ent to Aguilares in unescorted rented vehicle, which were used to move throughout the territory of El Salvador. In Aguilares the Committee was able to interview a group of campesinos, nuns and priest that provided valuable information on the murder of Father Rutilio Grande and on numerous detentions, disappearances, threats, and interference on the part of military and landowners in the worship of the Catholic faith and in the organization of campesinos.

The campesinos related numerous events and gave relevant details. In order to check part of the information provided by these campesinos viewed, that same day the Committee visited the Justice of the Peace and the Mayor of Aguilares, who cooperated with the Committee in its mission. The Justice of the Peace and the Mayor also provided the Special Committee with other reports on the conflicts in Aguilares. They said, among other things, groups of campesinos had committed acts of violence, such as invading and burning haciendas, which in turn led to confrontation with property owners and members of the military. In Aguilares, the Special Committee also had the opportunity to hear part of the sermon given by Archbishop Romero during the mass that he celebrated in the main church, on the occasion of a religious festival through the use of loudspeakers, many people on the church grounds and in the area surrounding the church heard the Archbishop’s sermon. Among other things, Monsignor Romero urged the faithful to continue to fight for their dignity and well-being, in spite of the difficulties that they faced; he said, moreover, that the church would continue to support them in that battle as their goals were in keeping with the evangelical mission in the world today.

The Archbishop added that a Special Committee of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was in Aguilares at that time to observe the situation on human rights in El Salvador and he recommended to those present that they go the Special Committee to recount their problems in connection with violations of their basic freedoms.

In Aguilares that day, with much movement in the streets, the Special Committee did not see any display of military or police force.

27. On January 16, the Special Committee visited the Treasury Police, where there are places to detain individuals accused of dealing in contraband and other infractions that fall within the competence of this specialized body. At that time, no one was being held. However, the Special Committee noted the existence of an underground jail, closed off by a steel grate at ground level, which is the only entrance to the jail. The Special Committee was told that this jail was used only for aggressive drunkards and addicts. This point will be discussed in Chapter IV. The Special Committee also visited the “El Buen Pastor” Women’s Rehabilitation Center in El Salvador and questioned the inmates in private. Some had already been found guilty of crimes, while others were awaiting trial. No one complained of the treatment received from police authorities or at the center.

28. A visit was also made to the Prosecutor of the Republic. During the interviews, the Chairman of the Special Committee requested information on the status of the investigation of certain cases of interest to the Committee. The Prosecutor briefly summarized the legal standards in force on the matter and the status of the cases in question, and expressed his willingness to provide a copy of the basic documents on these cases. However, no documentation whatever has been received from the Office of the Prosecutor.

29. On January 17, the Special Committee visited the Western Penitentiary of Santa Ana, an old building located in the Department of Santa Ana in the westernmost sector of the country. All the penitentiary’s facilities were inspected carefully. The majority of the complaints registered by the inmates who spoke in private with the members of the Special Committee concerned the poor living quarters and food at the penitentiary, However, a number alleged that they had been the victims of acts of violence committed by police agents during their detention. The Special Committee also visited the Second Criminal Court of Santa Ana, the location of some records concerning denunciations presented to the Commission. The judge granted the Special Committee permission to examine some of the files being processed and to make photocopies of one of those files, chosen to illustrate the processing given to cases involving the murder of individuals by members of the public forces.

30. The Special Committee visited the National Eastern Penitentiary, located in the city of San Vicente. It conducted a lengthy tour of the premises and found that while the penitentiary houses more prisoners than it should, the place is relatively clean and has a number of workshops where prisoners can learn a trade. Furthermore, none of the prisoners interviewed privately claimed to have been mistreated by prison authorities.

31. The Special Committee spoke with members of the National Bar Association, which is composed of the presidents of the various bar associations, During the course of the meeting the lawyers, chaired by Dr. Juan Menjivar, expressed their opinions on various topics in connection with the situation of human rights in El Salvador. The participants agreed that they are not limited in the exercise of their profession. They also added that since July 1, 1977, when the current President of El Salvador took office, the situation regarding respect for individual rights has stabilized noticeably.

32. Furthermore, the Special Committee met with individuals representing many other sectors of the population. Among the more important meetings were that held with representatives of the coalition of political parties that are the government’s principal opposition, the meeting with a committee of relatives of missing persons and individuals who allege that they were detained arbitrarily and were the victims of physical force, and finally, a meeting with representatives from private business and agricultural agencies.

33. The representatives of the coalition of political parties made very detailed statements and submitted a number of documents to the Committee. In summary, they accused the Government of massive and continual violations of civil and political rights. They cited numerous cases of death, physical intimidation and arbitrary arrest. They also denounced the constant persecution of political parties, especially in rural areas, which they claim prevents then from establishing viable political organizations in such areas. They stated that this in itself was a serious obstacle to a free, democratic political process. They went on to argue that the electoral process was practically invalidated, as the Government on the one hand, and members of the opposition parties on the other. Finally, they pointed to the problems under the new Law on Public Order of taking issue with the Government publicly. As an example they said while they came to the Committee in order to help improve democracy in El Salvador and avoid further violations of human rights and of the provisions of the Constitution of El Salvador, the mere fact that they were there, telling the Special Committee facts and opinions tending to censure the Government could lead, by the term of that Law, to a formal accusation of having acted with criminal intent.

The Committee informed them that President Romero had given assurances that individuals who provide information to the Committee will be protected against reprisal; the Committee added that, in its opinion, if an action were brought against someone for making statements to the Committee, this would undoubtedly break the terms of the agreement that the Government of El Salvador reached with the Committee concerning the on-site observation.

The Special Committee met for a number of hours with a large group of families, of victims of alleged violations of human rights.

The Committee heard accounts of detention, physical mistreatment, disappearances, failures to implement procedures to protect fundamental rights, all of which the claimants said were the results of what the Government considered to be the victims’ real or alleged political activities.

Many events and details were brought out during the interview. Those present at the hearing said that they had encountered great difficulty due to a lack of cooperation on the part of Governmental authorities and their interference in the judicial process in obtaining the release of their relatives who had been detained or in learning their whereabouts. The claimants also emphasized cases of missing relatives, because as a general rule, the authorities claim that they have no information on those cases.

The number and nature of the denunciations, as well as the attitude of the claimants, reflected insecurity as to how the authorities would treat families, one or a number of whose members are being sought or watched by the government because of alleged subversive or terrorist activities. The participants denied that the relatives for whom they interceded is or has been involved in such activities.

35. The Special Committee also received a visit from representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of El Salvador, from the Federation of Industrialists of El Salvador, the Coordinating Council of Agricultural Agencies, and from the national Small Business Association. These representatives of private business in El Salvador presented a document to the Special Committee in which they expressed their viewpoints on the situation regarding human rights in El Salvador.

They illustrated their statement by stating that a series of public demonstrations and illegal strikes are being held under the pretense of being fights for trade union grievances. The strikes, the siege mounted by groups of pickets who block workers from entering many factories, disrespect for private property, replace the labor relations called for persons, forced a series of changes in the Labor Code, changes which were demanded by the union members, and which led to the establishment of labor arbitration. Despite the reforms, new strike movements developed with total disregard for and in defiant violation of legal provisions on the subject. They added that the elections of 1972-74-76 and 77 were used by subversive elements Ro provoke more deterioration in the legal system, as Marxist affiliated groups organized students, worker, and campesino movements, and announced their fight to establish a socialist government in El Salvador. Such groups, they said tried to minimize honest effort made by trade unions, convinced them to use force rather than follow legal courses of action and advocated an organized fight against the Government and preached anarchy.

The claimants also cited terrorist attacks that have led to the deaths of members of the business sector. They ended by asserting, among other things, that the entire international campaign against the Government and people of El Salvador is part of an international subversive plan to undermine democratic institutions.

The document ends with the following conclusions:

1. Violations of human rights have been denounced internationally for purely political purposes, as part of a premeditated plan to weaken the Government.

2. Those who denounce such violations intentionally forget that those who instigate and preach disrespect for the laws of the Republic are those responsible for the breakdown in the country’s legal system.

3. They also forget that compliance with the Constitution and secondary laws is the juridical and moral basis for peaceful coexistence and,

4. The entire international publicity campaign against the Government and people of El Salvador is part of an international subversive plan to undermine democratic institutions in El Salvador and to encourage the establishment of a socialist system totally opposed to the democratic ideals that we en El Salvador profess.

36. Through the press of San Salvador, the Special Committee learned of an alleged document on the case of Dr. Rolando E. Julian Belloso, which had allegedly been sent to the Committee by a member of his family. In order to clarify the situation, the Special Committee issued a press release on January 16, 1978. [4]/

37. Dr. Alfredo Castro Quezada is a Salvadoran physician whose detention and disappearance were denounced to the Commission. Subsequently, the Commission received word of his release. On returning to Washington, the headquarters of the Commission, the Chairman of the Special Committee, Dr. Abranches, sent a cable to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in which he requested that the Government of El Salvador respect the physical safety of Dr. Castro Quezada. [5]/

38. Before and during the visit to El Salvador, the Commission received numerous denunciations concerning terrorist activities in that country which had led to considerable loss of life and destruction of property.

39. For their part, Governmental authorities in El Salvador expressed their concern over the problem of terrorism. In particular, they sent a note dated December 19, 1977, which contains the following statements:

“Through notes dated September 19, December 2 and 5, 1977, Your Excellency requested that the Foreign Ministry submit a report concerning Cases 2338, 2118, 2089, and 2336, which concern denunciations of alleged violations of human rights in El Salvador. The note dated December 2 and one of the notes of December 5 suggest the possibility that in accordance with the corresponding Regulations the events denounced will be presumed to be true should no information in response to the initial request made on December 6, 1976, be received within the required time period.

“As to the lack of information to date, I should like to explain to Your Excellency that no information ahs been provided as yet because my Government is particularly concerned that that information be full, truthful and exhaustive, and also because there has been a rapid succession of other events in my country that have merited equally intense investigation on the part of the competent authorities, such as the following:

1. The kidnapping and murder of the former President of the Tourism Institute of El Salvador, Licenciado Roberto Poma Delgado; the author of these crimes collected ransom even though they had already killed him.

2. The kidnapping and murder of the former Minister of Foreign affairs, Mauricio Alfredo Borgonovo Pohl, a criminal act whose cruelty and brutality shacked the entire international community.

3. The murder of the Rector of the Universidad de El Salvador, Dr. Carlos Alfaro Castillo, whose wife provided extensive information to the United Nations with regard to the case, as reported by the International press.

4. The murder of dozens of members of the security corps and civilians.

5. Numerous armed assaults and robberies of banks.

6. The violent and armed occupation of private property and the sacking and pillaging thereof.

7. Detonation of highly destructive explosive in private residences and public places.

As Your Excellency will understand, the events recounted above created atmosphere of deep crisis in my country, which was exacerbated by the strong and unjustified campaign to discredit El Salvador now being conducted by groups identified with international subversion.

In view of the magnitude of the events that I have pointed out, together with those that you cite in the notes to which I refer at the beginning, I am requesting on my government’s behalf that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights grant the extension necessary to submit a proper response concerning those events, in accordance with the detailed data to be provided by the courts of El Salvador after the start of its work in early January of 1978, data that must cover the entire investigation from the time the events occurred to the present.”

40. Certain groups and individuals heard by the Special Committee during its visit to El Salvador expressed the opinion that the number and seriousness of the events that affected and affect the enforcement of human rights in El Salvador had declined since the current President of the Republic took office. Others disagreed with that view. At any rate, the present authorities are obligated to take the measures necessary to see to it that the recommendations made in this report are fulfilled.

41. The group accused of acts of violence include the following: Falange, Mano Blanca, E.R.P. (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (People’s Revolutionay Army) and F.P.L. (Fuerzas Populares de Liberación – People’s Liberation Force). However, many people and representatives of a number of sectors of the population who testified before the Committee expressed the opinion that many of the terrorist acts were committed by embers of the paramilitary organization know as ORDEN. The activities of ORDEN are referred to in various parts of this report. At this point it is sufficient to note that the Government gave no indication to the Special Committee that it had taken steps to investigate these events and punish those responsible and, of course, to prevent their reoccurrence, specially with regard to the serious allegations made against ORDEN, which is a government institution.

42. The opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on this subject has been repeated constantly in various reports. In all those reports, the Commission has condemned the practice of terrorism Acts of indiscriminant violence and the use of inhuman means for whatever purpose, should be categorically condemned by all people. The Commission has maintained constantly that governments are obligated to take the measures necessary to prevent, impede and punish these serious acts.

43. To combat terrorism governments sometimes decide to suspend certain constitutional guarantees related to political and civil rights. Most constitutions have a provision for this contingency, but they establish a specific procedure to ensure that the public powers including all areas of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of governments stay within limits acceptable within a democratic society.

44. Contemporary international standards on human rights allow for the suspension of certain rights in emergency situations. Governments that confront terrorist acts that treated the security of the State my feel compelled to restrict the exercise of certain rights for a brief period of time. As stated in Resolution 371, adopted at the eighth regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, certain rights cannot be suspended under any circumstances. [6]/

Summary execution and torture, used either by governments or private groups, are not only inhumane practices but are also instruments of terror and thereby constitute inadmissible acts, condemned by all civilized peoples. Equally unacceptable, cruel and inhuman are kidnapping by private groups and detention and disappearance of individuals in the hands of the authorities.

45. During the on-site observation, the committee received numerous communications, which it analyzed in order to determine whether they met the requirements necessary to open a case as established in the Regulations of the Commission. After careful study, 122 new cases were opened, which involved a total of 143 individuals. These cases are being processed in accordance with the regulatory provisions of the Commission.

46. At the conclusion of its visit to El Salvador, the Special Committee released a press communiqué. [7]/

47. This report includes the denunciations and information received by the Commission both prior to and during the visit, which took place between January 9, and 18, as well as the communications and information received by November 17, 1978, the date on which the Commission adopted this report.

D. Format of the Report

48. This report follows the same format used in other reports of on-site observations made by the Commission. The report has been divided into separate chapters, generally following the order in which the various human rights appear in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. The pertinent article from the American Convention on Human Rights, which entered into force on July 18, 1978, appears in the heading of each chapter. In addition to this introduction, the report contains the following chapters: I. Legal Norms Relating to Human Rights; II. Right to life; III. Right to Humane Treatment; IV. Right to Physical Liberty; V. right to a Fair Trial and Due Process of Law; VI. Right of Residence and Transit; VII. Right of Assembly and Associations; VIII. Right to Freedom of Thought and Expression; IX. Right to Vote and to participate in Government; X. Right to Equality before the Law and Non-Discrimination; XI. Economic and Social Rights; Conclusions and Recommendations.

49. Transcribed in Chapter II, III, and IV are certain paragraphs from the pertinent parts of denunciation received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Special Committee, as it was felt that the various types of alleged violations that the Committee considered during its on-site observation in El Salvador should be illustrated through the use of specific cases. The observations made by the Commission in this report, which may bear upon said cases, do not imply any prejudgment with regard to them, as they will continue to be processed as required by the Regulations; the final decision with regard to them will follow in due course. [8]/




[1] See the general analysis of the issue of exiles Chapter VI, p. 123

[2] “The Special Committee appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct an on-site observation in the territory of El Salvador on the situation regarding human rights in that country at the invitation of the Government of El Salvador, began its activities today. The members of this Special Committee are as follows: the Vice Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches, Professor Tom J. Farer and Dr. Fernando Volio, members of the Commission. Dr. Edmundo Vargas Carreño, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, its acting as Secretary of the Special Committee, assisted by professional and administrative staff from the Commission’s Secretariat.

The Commission is an organ of the Organization of American States whose principal purpose is to promote the observance and protection of human rights in the member states of the Organization. The Commission is composed of seven members elected, as individuals, by the Permanent Council of the OAS to a four-year term of office. The members do not represent the countries of which they are nationals, but rather act on behalf of the Organization. The results of the observation of the Special Committee will be submitted to the Commission as a whole and the report will be considered in due course by the General Assembly of the OAS.

During its stay in El Salvador the members of the Special Committee will conduct private interviews with authorities of the three branches of government of the Republic of El Salvador and individuals representing political, religious, professional, business, labor and student organizations and the communications media.

They also intend to visit detention centers and, of course, are willing to receive any individuals interested in providing information that could help the Special Committee form an opinion on respect for human rights in El Salvador.

All these activities will take place in both the city of San Salvador and in other communities in the Republic, in accordance with the schedule approved beforehand by the Special Committee.

The Commission has received from the Governor of El Salvador every possible assurance that any institution, organization or individual that wishes to present before the Special Committee some case of individual or general interest in connection with the situation of human rights will have free access to it. All the members of the Special Committee and the staff from the Secretariat who are assisting the members are at the disposition of any individual who wishes to provide some information or present a written communication, which will be kept in the strictest confidence. The offices of the Committee during its visit are in the Hotel Camino Real, Room 210.

El Salvador, January 12. 1978-

[3] See Chapter III, pp. 65 and Chapter IV, pp. 85.

[4] “The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights learned from reports in the press of San Salvador of a document on the case of Dr. Rolando Elias Julian Belloso. In this regard the Commission states:

1. The Commission has not received the document in question.

2. Before formulating any judgement with regard to denunciation or the content of a document submitted to it for consideration, the Commission transmits the pertinent parts of the denunciation or of the document to the respective government, without revealing the identity of the claimant, in accordance with the Rules of the Commission.

3. Thus, the Government concerned always has the right to answer any allegation that is untrue or to challenge a false document.”

[5] See Chapter III, pp. 65, and Chapter IV, pp. 85.

[6] It is pertinent to note that Article 27 of the American Convention on Human Rights provides the following:

1. In time of war, public danger, or other emergency that threatens the independence or security of a State Party, it may take measures derogating from its obligations under the present Convention to the extent and for the period of time strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination on the ground of race, color, sex, language, religion, or social origin.

2. The foregoing provision does not authorize any suspension of the following articles: Article 3 (Right to Juridical Personality), Article 4 (Right to Life, Article 5 (Right to Humane Treatment), Article 6 (Freedom from Slavery), Article 9 (Freedom for Ex Post Facto Laws), Article 12 (Freedom of Conscience and Religion), Article 17 (Rights of the Family), Article 18 (Right to a Name), Article 19 (Right of the Child), Article 20 (Right to Nationality), and Article 23 (Right to Participate in Government), or of the Judicial guarantees essential for the protection of such rights.

3. Any State party availing itself of the right of suspension shall immediately inform the other States Parties, through the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, of the provisions the application of which it has suspended, the reasons that gave rise to the suspension, and the date set for the termination of each such suspension.

[7] “Today marks the conclusion of the visit made to El Salvador by the Special Committee appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to conduct an observation in the territory of El Salvador on the situation regarding human rights in that country, at the invitation of that Government. The Special Committee was composed of the Vice Chairman of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches, who served as its Chairman, Professor R. J. Farer and R. Fernando Volio, members of the Commission, accompanied y staff from the Secretariat of the Commission.

During its stay in El Salvador, the Committee conducted interviews with the President and Vice-president of the Republic, the President of the Legislative Assembly, the Supreme Court of Justice, various Ministers of State and other authorities.

The Special Committee also received privately individuals representing various religious, political, professional, business and labor organizations and representatives of the news media.

The Special Committee also visited the country’s major penal institutions and various cities in the interior of El Salvador.

At its offices in the Hotel Camino Real in San Salvador, the Committee received any individual interested in providing specific or general information on the situation regarding human rights in El Salvador.

The Special Committee, of course, cannot at this point make any judgement concerning its visit to the territory of El Salvador, as it must submit, in due course, a detailed report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a whole. That report will contain an analysis of the information gathered by the Special Committee during its stay in El Salvador.

For this reason, the members of the Special Committee have abstained from making any statements or assessments on the substance of the matter.

The Chairman of the Special Committee yesterday visited the President of the Republic and used the opportunity to thank him for having received from authorities of El Salvador the facilities necessary to perform their mission.

Finally, the Committee wishes to state that individuals and institutions that provided information to the Committee were protected under the commitment assumed by the Government to abstain from taking any measures against them from having cooperated with the Committee.

El Salvador, January 18, 1978.

[8] When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights receives a denunciation that meets the regulatory requirements, in other words, a signed communication with the address of the remittent, alleging that a member government of the OAS has violated one of the rights recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and where the remedies of internal jurisdiction have been exhausted, the Commission transmits the pertinent parts of the communication to the government in question, omitting the same of the individual who submitted the denunciation. The government then has a period of 180 days to submit its observations to the Commission. This information, in turn, is refereed to the claimant so that he or she may reply to the government’s response. When this part of the process has been completed, the Inter-American commission on Human Rights takes a final decision on the case, which may lead to the adoption of a resolution that presumes the events denounced to be proved


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